Emily Belle Freeman
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THIS IS MY JOY

AND MY GREAT REJOICING

The Celebration...an ending...and a beginning

I could have finished today. I had time...

But I will be honest, a part of me is sad to see it end.  I have loved this reading of the Old Testament more than I thought I would.

Could we have imagined at the beginning how much we would have loved from the reading by the end?

So many lessons.

The scarlet thread.  The fringes.  The bells and the pomegranates.  Having a willing heart.  Learning to love Leah, to appreciate her more than we might have before.

The wilderness moments.  The Lord in His temple. The mothers in Israel.

The woman with a torch-like spirit.  Never giving that which doth cost us nothing.

Those are just a few of the lessons I don't ever want to forget from this experience.

Today we celebrate the end of reading the Old Testament and the beginning of reading the New Testament.  We have strengthened our testimony of Jehovah, the Deliverer.  We are about to add to our testimony of Jesus Christ, our Savior...our Redeemer.

It is the witness of those who have gone before that adds to our own faith.  The testimonies they have recorded.

The evidences.

Today we celebrate those evidences.

If you are not walking with us this morning, perhaps you would like to ponder on the four lessons we will be learning about throughout the walk on your own sometime today.  The devotionals are included below.

Enjoy the celebration!!

 

Beginning:

Before you begin walking introduce this question for the journey ahead:

What is your favorite scripture?

Ponder it as you walk.  Share your feelings with those you are walking with.

 

STOP ONE:

Take a moment to write down your favorite scripture in your journal.  How does that scripture strengthen you?  What is it an evidence of?

DEVOTIONAL:  I love the story found in 1 Nephi 17 when Nephi begins to build a ship.  His  brothers “began to murmur saying, our brother is a fool, for he thinketh that he can build a ship; yea, and he also thinketh that he can cross these great waters…we knew you were lacking in judgment; wherefore, thou canst not accomplish so great a work.”  (1 Nephi 17:17, 19)

Have you ever noticed how Nephi responded?

He turned to the scriptures.  He reminded his brothers about the stories of Moses.  The parting of the Red Sea.  The miracles in the wilderness.  Then he said…

“And now, if the Lord has such great power, and has wrought so many miracles among the children of men, how is it that he cannot instruct me, that I should build a ship?” (1 Nephi 17:51)

To strengthen his own faith in what he was doing, Nephi turned to the scriptures, to the written and recorded evidences of people who had witnessed the hand of the Lord.  The stories in the scriptures gave him the faith he needed to accomplish a great work.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul does this same thing.  He tells us, “Faith is the evidence of things not seen…” (Hebrews 11:1)

Then he makes a list of his favorite scripture heroes…and the evidence of what happened in their life.

The scripture stories he lists contain the evidences.

By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land

By faith the walls of Jericho fell down

By faith Rahab perished not with them that believed not

Paul talks about the prophets who through faith

subdued kingdoms

Wrought righteousness

Obtained promises

Stopped the mouths of lions

Quenched the violence of fire

Escaped the edge of the sword

Out of weakness were made strong

Waxed valiant in fight

received their dead raised to life again

In essence, Hebrews 11 contains a list of heroes.  Their stories contain evidences of the hand of the Lord in the life of His people.  Evidences that were written down to strengthen the faith of those that would read them in future years.

My favorite part of Hebrews chapter eleven is found in chapter 12 when Paul says, “Seeing we are also compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight…and run with patience the race that is set before us.”  Hebrews 12:1)  Who are the cloud of witnesses?  All of the heroes listed in Chapter 11.

As we go through life, we, too, can look back at the great cloud of witnesses, the heroes, whose stories are contained in the scriptures.   Holding on to their stories can help us to lay aside the weight we carry.

Their stories become evidence to us that the Lord is real, that He helps His people, that He loves us.

Through reading their evidences we come to understand that if those people were able to accomplish such great things through the Lord, then so can we.

Before you begin walking again, introduce the next question for the journey ahead:

Think of a tender mercy you have experienced recently.  How is it an evidence of the hand of the Lord in your life?

Ponder it as you walk.  Share your feelings with those you are walking with.

 

STOP TWO:

Take a moment to write down a tender mercy you have experienced.  A moment when you saw the hand of the Lord in your life. 

DEVOTIONAL:We all love stories of great journeys.  There is something invigorating about a hero battling adversity, solving the unsolvable, and nearly running out of precious time before finally reaching the “X” that marks the spot.

Journeys make great books, movies, and bedtime stories.  They also make good scripture!  One of the reasons we love journeys in the scriptures so much is because they can be read as an allegory of our own journey to our heavenly home.

One of the most fantastic journeys in scripture is the account of the brother of Jared and his family’s ride in barges across the great waters toward their promised land.

You remember that one of their problems was that the barges needed to be sealed so tightly to prevent water from leaking in that there was no light.  In a great teaching moment, God had the brother of Jared search for the solution.

It would be a time of stretching and trusting and learning by faith.

Perhaps turning to past evidence in scripture for answers, and certainly spending a lot of time pondering and praying, the brother of Jared eventually discovered an answer.  He decided to ask the Lord to touch stones to make them shine in the darkness of the barges.

We don’t know how long the process took, but we do know that the Brother of Jared spent the time to molten each of the sixteen stones out of rock.  They were of a particular size.  He built fire.  He forged the rocks.  He purified the stones.  He kept them in the flames until they were white and transparent.  He cooled them.  And then he carried them up a mountain of exceeding height in his hands, and knelt to pray.

In an astonishing display of God’s goodness and man’s faith, the Lord “stretched forth his hand and touched the stones one by one with his finger.”  (Ether 3:6) He didn’t just wave His hand, or simply speak the words, but he actually touched each individual stone.  One by one.

As this small group of travelers set sail into the sea, they embarked on a long and dangerous journey—of unknown length of time and distance.  They were tossed to and fro.  They were plunged deep into the waters for days on end.  They were carried forth by violent waves and wild winds.  There were certainly endless days and sleepless nights.    They were cramped.  They were tired.  There was sickness, despair, and anxiety down below, and when they came up for air there was nothing but miles of endless ocean in every direction.

Can you relate?

How many times did they wonder if they were going the right way?  …How long the trial would last? …If there really was a promised land?  …Had they made the right choice?  …Was the journey really worth it?

I wonder, in the midst of their questioning and difficult days, in the very moment when doubt consumed them, if they might have caught a glimpse of something bright in the corner of the barge.  The shining stone.  Evidence of the hand of the Lord in their life.

In those moments of remembering, perhaps the Holy Ghost pricked their hearts.  All of a sudden doubt started to melt as peace washed over their wearied souls.  God was indeed with them.  Leading them.  There was hope.  Evidence in the corner of the barge.  There would be a glorious end.  The evidence gave them purpose and reason to keep moving forward and confidence that filled their heart to the brim for another day.

In Ether 6:3 we read: “And thus the Lord caused stones to shine in darkness, to give light unto men, women, and children, that they might not cross the great waters in darkness.”

The same promise applies to us today.

The Lord will not leave us to travel in darkness or despair, He will send light to every one of us.

One by one.

In His own way, and in His own time He will send us evidences that we do not travel alone on this journey.

Look for these evidences on your daily journey.  During moments of doubt try to catch a glimpse of something bright in the corner of your barge.

God will manifest Himself to you.

Open your eyes to see His hand.

Hand out a small stone to each participant.  Ask them to carry it with them.

Before you begin walking again, introduce the next question for the journey ahead:

Have you ever wondered what the Jaredites did with the stones once they reached the Promised Land?  Would they have discarded them?  Set them aside?  Thrown them away?  Or would they have kept them somewhere special as a reminder of the hand of the Lord in their lives?  How do you remember the tender mercy moments?  Do you keep a record of the evidences of the hand of the Lord in your life?  How?

Ponder this thought as you walk.  Share your feelings with those you are walking with.

 

STOP THREE:

Commit to finding a way to remember the Evidences of the Lord in your life.  How will you do it?  Write down your promptings or ideas in your journal.

DEVOTIONAL: There is a moment recorded in the Book of Samuel when the Philistines were about to come to battle against the children of Israel.  Samuel asked the people to “Prepare your hearts unto the Lord, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hands of the Philistines…Gather all Israel…and I will pray for you unto the Lord.  And they gathered together…and fasted on that day.”  (Samuel 7:3-6)

Israel was afraid, and they said to Samuel, “Cease not to cry unto the Lord our God for us, that he will save us.  And Samuel cried unto the Lord for Israel; and the Lord heard him.”  (Samuel 7:8-9)

And Israel prevailed.

“Then Samuel took a stone, and called the name of it Eben-ezer, saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.”  (Samuel 7:12)  If you look at the footnote for Ebenezer in verse 12 you will find that the name “Ebenezer” means stone of help.

My favorite part of this story is what happened at the end.  After the prayers.  After the battle.  After the deliverance.  In the moment that was surely filled with celebration, Samuel took a stone and made a memorial so that Israel would not forget.

The Eben-ezer, the stone of help, became evidence of the hand of the Lord in a situation they could not have made it through on their own.

Do you have an Ebenezer in your home?  It might not be a stone.  Really anything that reminds you of a time when you recognized the help of the Lord could count.  Something that helps you to remember the Evidences.  Sometimes the best way to remember the evidences is to write them down.  Then the written entry itself can become the Ebenezer…the evidence.

The scriptures are filled with these types of evidences ––each chapter contains a story of someone who has witnessed the hand of the Lord in their life.  We know their stories now because they remembered to write them down.  Because they remembered to record them.

In essence the scriptures themselves are a Book of Evidences.  A written record of the moments when the Lord helped His people.  A reminder.

Do you have a Book of Evidences?  A place where you keep a record of the tender mercy moments in your life so you can always remember them, so you will never forget?

Perhaps you could use the journal you started on this journey.  Like Samuel’s Ebenezer, his stone of help, this Book of Evidences could become a constant reminder of the hand of the Lord in your life from this moment forward.

One of my favorite songs speaks of Samuel’s Ebenezer.  It is a song many of us are familiar with.  It is called Come, Thou fount of Every Blessing.  Would you mind if we joined together and sang it here?

Come, thou Fount of every blessing,

tune my heart to sing thy grace;

streams of mercy, never ceasing,

call for songs of loudest praise.

Teach me some melodious sonnet,

sung by flaming tongues above.

Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it,

mount of thy redeeming love.

 

Here I raise mine Ebenezer;

hither by thy help I'm come;

and I hope, by thy good pleasure,

safely to arrive at home.

Jesus sought me when a stranger,

wandering from the fold of God;

he, to rescue me from danger,

interposed his precious blood.

 

O to grace how great a debtor

daily I'm constrained to be!

Let thy goodness, like a fetter,

bind my wandering heart to thee.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,

prone to leave the God I love;

here's my heart, O take and seal it,

seal it for thy courts above.

Before you begin walking again, introduce the next question for the journey ahead:

Can you think of a person you know whose very life is evidence of what they believe?  Who is it?  What is it about the way that they live that allows you to see that evidence?

Ponder this thought as you walk.  Share your feelings with those you are walking with.

 

STOP FOUR – THE END OF THE JOURNEY:

Write the name of the person who is an evidence to you and some of the reasons why they are an evidence.

DEVOTIONAL:

Today we accomplished something wonderful.  We had a day to be remembered.

We celebrated evidences.

First we learned about Evidences in the Holy Scriptures ––the faith of the ancients.  We talked of favorite scriptures.

Then we learned about Evidences that come to each of us one by one on our journeys ––the tender mercy moments.  We spoke of Shining stones.

Last we learned about Evidences that need to be remembered, recorded, and passed on to others. We talked of Ebenezers…stones of help.

And now we should ask the question, “Therefore, what?”

(Some are thinking about an ibuprofen and a bath.  But there is something more.)

Before we got to this last stop, you were thinking and perhaps sharing with others someone who is an evidence in your own life.  Someone who inspires you to become more holy.  Someone who is an individual witness of the Lord.

Someone whose very life is Evidence that God lives and that He is good.

Joseph Smith is one of these Evidences.  He recorded a magnificent revelation near the end of his life. At the time, he was hiding from the Missourians, who were searching Nauvoo to bring him back across state lines to get rid of him.  His hiding place was his mother’s secret attic in the late months of hot, humid Nauvoo.

In the revelation written from his hiding place, Joseph listed many of the miracles of the restoration—the visions, the visits, the angels, the keys.  He listed the witnesses and evidences of God’s hand in his life.  The tender moments when He had given Joseph “line upon line, precept upon precept; here a little, and there a little; giving us consolation by holding forth that which is to come, confirming our hope!” (128:21)

And then, after writing down the list of Evidences, Joseph says, “Shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage…and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad.” (128:22)

Joseph teaches us an important principle.  As we learn to consider the evidences that surround us, we will be moved and invited to join with witnesses who have gone before and become evidences ourselves today.  Living proof that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

 

The call of those who have lived as Evidences is always a call to action:

Mary Fielding Smith encourages us to “…have not the smallest desire to go one step backward.”

President J. Reuben Clark counseled, “Never let your faith be difficult to detect.”

President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “We must live as true followers of the Christ.”

 

We must become the evidence of what we believe.

This is not the end of our journey…but a moment where we catch our breath and prepare to continue along the pathway ahead.

It has been a privilege to walk together with you for a time.

Now we part ways, taking with us what we have learned…

 

To learn from the evidences as we read the scriptures

To look for the evidences in our lives daily

To remember to record the evidences of the hand of the Lord in our lives

And last, to become the evidence of what we believe.

 

Now, should we not go on in so great a cause?

Go forward and not backward.

Courage…and on, on to the victory!

Emily Freeman